The Pearsons Of Coolacrease, Tullamore Tribune, 7 and 14 Nov 2007 (pdf)
THE EXECUTION OF RICHARD AND ABRAHAM PEARSON
Up to thirty IRA Volunteers were involved in the operation to execute the Pearson brothers and burn down their house. The Volunteers were mostly drawn from the 3rd Battalion comprising four companies ‘A’ Killoughey, ‘B’ Kilcormac, ‘C’ Kinnitty and ‘D’ Drumcullen.
The main ASU numbered about ten men, armed with rifles, who acted as the firing squad. On 30 June 1921, at 4 p.m.
a number of Volunteers surrounded the Pearson’s house. Other Volunteers went to where Richard and Abraham were working in a hay field about thirty yards away.
The IRA ordered the two brothers to put up their hands and go up to the house. They were taken to a yard at the back of the house, told of the execution order, and then shot by the firing squad. The ASU botched the execution and did not carry out a coup de grâce by finishing the two brothers off with head shots. The Offaly IRA had limited experience in shootings and their training was minimal. They were not battle hardened veterans. Almost two weeks previously, the 2nd Battalion (Cloghan) IRA bungled the shooting of an informer. Three Volunteers armed with two rifles and a shotgun were lying in wait to kill the chief clerk at Perry’s mills in Belmont. The Volunteer armed with the shotgun was overly uptight and fired prematurely when the target was over sixty yards away. This lapse in military discipline enabled the fortunate man, an ex-soldier, to escape with his life.
The Offaly IRA preferred to specialise in low risk sabotage. Their activities were praised by An tÓglach, the IRA journal. The Offaly IRA blamed the flat countryside and the perceived poor terrain for their lack of success in ambushes. This was more of an excuse than a valid reason. There was a chronic lack of decisive leadership which had a debilitating affect on operations.
The No. 2 Brigade’s military deficiencies were noted by Michael McCormack, O/C 3rd Southern Division. In a correspondence with GHQ, McCormack observed: ‘Their sniping is poor, as you will doubtlessly have noticed & consequently the enemy have adapted an attitude of contempt for the Brigade in general.’ McCormack expressed disappointment how IRA training camps could not be more elaborate due to the absence of ‘good officer material.’ The inadequate educational background of many of the IRA officers hampered aspects of the training regime. Volunteers who attended a training camp during the Truce were reported to be ‘very slack in any military knowledge.’
At 6.55 p.m.
, while leaving the dispensary in Kinnity
, Dr Frederick W. Woods was told the two Pearson brothers had been shot. Dr Woods immediately proceeded to Coolacrease on a bicycle. On arrival at 7.30 p.m.
he saw Richard Pearson lying on a mattress in a field at the back of the house. By this stage Richard lost a considerable amount of blood. Had medical assistance arrived sooner the lives of the two brothers may have been saved. Richard received superficial wounds to the left shoulder, a deep wound in the right groin and right buttock.
There were also wounds to the left lower leg of a superficial nature and about six wounds to the back. Dr Woods dressed the wounds antiseptically. After attending to Abraham, Dr Woods returned to Kinnitty at about 8.45 p.m. At 10.45 p.m.
the RIC came to the doctor’s house.
He again left for Coolacrease. By the time the doctor arrived Richard was already dead. The cause of death was shock and haemorrhage. On examining the body again Dr Woods found a dangerous wound he had not previously discovered. Abraham was removed to Crinkle Barracks
in Birr. He had extensive wounds to the left cheek, left shoulder, left thigh and the lower left leg. He was also wounded in the abdomen and the lower part of the spinal column was fractured. At 6 a.m.
the next morning Abraham died from ‘shock due to gunshot wounds.’ The remains were interred at the family place at Ballacolla in Co. Laois.
The Pearson episode was tragic. However, the manner of their deaths was no less traumatic than many members of the Crown forces and IRA who died during this time. ...
Peter Lyons, IRA Intelligence Officer: ‘They [IRA] did what they should do.’
The day before the execution Sidney, the third target, left with his father to attend a wedding festival in Tipperary from where they proceeded to Mountmellick. The IRA, using hay sprinkled with petrol, set fire to the Pearson home and out houses which were completely destroyed. Ricks of hay and straw were also burned. A group of Volunteers transferring the arms used in the execution back to Kinnitty
were surrounded by Crown forces but managed to escape. IRA Volunteer Peter Lyons had a peripheral involvement in the execution. He, along with another Volunteer, collected a rifle at Cloghan which was transferred to other Volunteers who in turn gave it to the IRA firing squad. Lyons blocked the road to prevent any surprise Crown force patrol interfering with the execution.
A party of Volunteers were in position in Kinnitty to harass any attempt by the Crown forces to carry out a reprisal. Over sixty years after the event Lyons remained unrepentant: ‘People look back now and say didn’t the IRA do this, and didn’t the IRA do that, but they did what they should do. I mean to say those two went out and fired on them where they were fighting for their country.’